The United Auto Workers union has ordered 7,000 more workers in Illinois and Michigan to go on strike, expanding the ongoing strikes in the Detroit automakers. The union is putting pressure on the companies to improve their offers in contract negotiations.
This is the second time the union has widened the walkouts, which began two weeks ago at three assembly plants. The strikes have since spread to include a Ford plant in Chicago and a General Motors factory near Lansing.
Union President Shawn Fain addressed the workers in a video, stating that the strikes were escalated because Ford and GM have not made “meaningful progress” in the talks. However, Stellantis, the maker of Jeep vehicles, was spared from the strikes for now.
Ford and GM have fired back with strong statements. Ford accused the UAW of holding up a deal mainly over union representation at electric vehicle battery plants, many of which are joint ventures with a Korean manufacturer.
In response, Ford CEO Jim Farley said, “We still have time to reach an agreement and avert a real disaster.” The company also highlighted the impact of the work stoppages on fragile parts suppliers for the striking factories.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra blamed the union for the impasse, stating that “there is no real intent to get to an agreement.” The GM plant in Delta Township, near Lansing, makes large crossover SUVs, while the Ford plant in Chicago produces Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs.
The union and the companies are still in talks, and there is hope that they can reach a deal. Stellantis has made progress by agreeing to cost-of-living raises and granting the right not to cross picket lines or strike over plant closures.
The strike expansion has garnered attention from both sides of the political spectrum. President Joe Biden’s administration, which is pushing for cleaner electric vehicles, is closely watching the union demands. Biden walked picket lines with workers at a GM parts warehouse during his visit to the Detroit area. Former President Donald Trump also visited the area for a rally at a nonunion parts manufacturer.
The automakers’ offers so far would add $3,000 to $5,000 to the cost of an average electric vehicle, which would ultimately be passed on to consumers. The union is also focused on organizing the battery plants to ensure job security for workers, especially those who may be displaced from traditional engine manufacturing.
The union argues that labor expenses only make up a small percentage of vehicle costs, and the companies can afford larger raises considering their profits. However, the automakers are concerned about the impact of high wages on the competitiveness of their vehicles compared to those produced at nonunion plants.
As the strikes continue and both sides remain firm in their positions, it appears that a long battle may be ahead.
(This article was rewritten by NewsFeedWorld Staff)